ESS 404: Engineering Scholars as Engaged Scholars
This week on the the (Not So) Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer we are excited to have Claire-Marie Kooi, Engineering Student Service’s student engagement programs manager. (ES)² is a first-year program that fosters an engineering culture that reflects our richly diverse national community and prepares students to be socially engaged, well-rounded engineers. Claire goes in-depth about (ES)² with topics including application requirements, program highlights, and program benefits. Open only to incoming freshmen and transfer students, applications for (ES)² are due July 1.
- Engineering Scholars as Engaged Scholars
- (ES)² application link
- Engineering, the Environment, and Society course website
LAURA VOGT: Hello and welcome to the (Not So) Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineering. I’m your host, Laura Vogt, the associate director of marketing and communications in the College of Engineering. This week on our podcast we’re going to find out more about Engineering Scholars as Engaged Scholars with Claire-Marie Kooi. Hi Claire, I’m so glad you could be here and tell us more about this great program.
CLAIRE-MARIE KOOI: Hi, thank you so much for having me. I am a programs manager in Engineering Student Services and I oversee a couple of different programs. The first is Engineering Scholars as Engaged Scholars or (ES)², which we’re here to talk about today. And I also oversee two mentor programs. The first is the First-Generation Mentor Program, where we have incoming first-gen students paired with second, third, or fourth year engineering students to help ease that transition to Cal. And then this year, which is really exciting, we’re also piloting a transfer mentor program, where we, of course, have peer mentorship for transfer students as well. I’m also a Cal alum. So a little bit about my background. I majored in environmental earth science but I was also involved in the engineering community. I was president of the Black Engineering and Science Student Association or BESSA. And also involved in NERDS which is New Experiences for Research and Diversity in the Sciences and I think through those two programs I really developed my love for education and for working with students. So I’m really excited that it’s come full circle and now I’m actually working in the college of engineering with a really great team and really amazing students.
LAURA: Oh that’s so exciting and I’m excited about your new mentorship program.
CLAIRE: Yeah. Thank you so much. I think it’ll be great.
LAURA: So again, today we’re here to talk specifically about Engineering Scholars as Engaged Scholars or as we like to shorten it (ES)². It’s one of my favorite programs that we have here at Berkeley. Can you tell us a little bit more about the overall program.
CLAIRE: Yeah absolutely. It really has to do about the intersection between social justice and engineering. We want students to think not only about the technical aspects of their work but also about the impact that their work is having on communities, local communities but also globally. So each year we bring in a cohort of about 30 to 35 incoming frosh and transfer students. And the program begins with the fall seminar. We have a kickoff event where everyone meets each other and then we delve into discussions around identity, about privilege, about what social justice is, and what that means for an engineer. And then we also bring in guest speakers. So we have some guest speakers who are engineers and we have some who aren’t. So we really want students to start thinking about the interdisciplinary nature of engineering. And then also, in the spring they take a course, E 157 AC course, Engineering, the Environment, and Society. This is taught by Professor Khalid Kadir and it’s a really amazing course. There’s a huge wait list but one of the perks of this program is that you actually get a reserved seat in the course. That delves deeper into some of the topics that we discussed in the fall seminar, so thinking about privilege, thinking about environmental justice, and really going deep into that. Also, as part of the course for an extra unit you can do a community part or community project. That’s where you work with local organizations that are doing social justice work and you have a project through that and work with a team through the course and then you and then you present on that. The last component of the program is that you can get summer funding to do a project or to do research, as long as it aligns with the mission of (ES)².
LAURA: That’s a pretty extensive program. So why do you think it’s important that this type of program exists for our students?
CLAIRE: I think it’s super important, especially when you’re just setting foot at Cal. So first is because you can build a community, so you’re not alone on your journey throughout your first year at Cal. But also during that first year, you’re thrown into these courses that are really technical focused, so you know- calculus, E7, chemistry. We want students to be well-rounded and starting to think more broadly about their work – yeah, I’m focusing on the math and the engineering principles here, but what does this mean in a global context. And also when they go into the workplace thinking not only about you know what is the solution to this issue but should I be working on this, should this be a solution, and who is it impacting.
LAURA: I really like that idea that it’s not just about this one particular problem but what is going to come because you’re solving this problem and how you’re making those decisions. You talked a little bit about the research in the summer, is there any research that happens during the year to go along with the seminar?
CLAIRE: No. So right now, there’s no research throughout the year, but we do have students who really take initiative and if there is a research project that a student is interested in getting involved in and it aligns with the mission of (ES)² we’re completely open to finding funding for that. So I say just communicate with me and let me know what your interests are and we’ll always try to make it work and get you funding to do what you’re passionate about.
LAURA: I know one of the things that’s nice about the course that goes along with this is that it fulfills the American Culture’s requirement as well.
CLAIRE: It does. Yes absolutely.
LAURA: So that makes it nice, it’s giving you a little bit of extra boost when it comes to your requirements.
CLAIRE: It does and it’s also related to engineering. So some students really enjoy that it’s like more of a humanities course but about engineering principles.
LAURA: Oh okay. And so what exactly is expected of the students who participate? How much time is involved?
CLAIRE: We meet biweekly, for about two hours. So that’s sort of the time commitment for that. And you must be able to participate in the whole fall seminar series. And of course we’re open, we know we know some people are student parents or have other obligations. So we’re definitely flexible, but we do require you to be very present, to be engaging, to be enthusiastic. You can take the spring course anytime throughout your undergraduate career so you don’t have to take it that first spring and then you can also do the summer project at any time throughout your undergraduate career as well.
LAURA: Oh that’s great. So it doesn’t just have to end after your first year, students can continue on. And what type of student are you looking to participate? What should be their goals if they take part?
CLAIRE: Absolutely. So we really want students from diverse backgrounds, so in our cohort we really want it to be a rich community. So we have students that are coming from underserved backgrounds. We have students that come from more privileged backgrounds. We have students that come from other countries. So we really want students that bring their own unique perspective to this program and also students that demonstrate a commitment to providing service to underserved communities. So that’s really what we want. And again just that enthusiasm and that passion for learning is really important. And then some of the goals if they take part is to gain professional development and leadership experience, that can help them when they’re looking for internships or looking for a job when they complete their degree. And also just to develop a deeper understanding of the social and cultural dynamics that drive our society. So again, they can become more well-rounded engineers.
LAURA: How consumers apply for the program?
CLAIRE: You can apply by going to the Berkeley Engineering website, engineering.berkeley.edu and then you click on the Programs tab and then you click on (ES)² and you can find out more information about the program and then you can also find the link to apply there.
LAURA: How difficult is it to become part of the program, is it really competitive?
CLAIRE: It definitely is competitive. We do have a lot of applicants to the program and a lot of interest but I don’t think that should deter you from from applying.
LAURA: What does the application entail?
CLAIRE: Yes. So it’s basically just going to ask about some of your background information and then there’s a couple prompts where you discuss why you’re interested in the program, what your previous experience has been, if any. And really just learning more about why you want to be a part of this program and what you can contribute and what you hope to gain from it.
LAURA: Is there a specific deadline, is it a rolling deadline?
CLAIRE: There is a specific deadline, Wednesday, July 1, 2020 by 11:59 p.m.
LAURA: What has been the highlight for you since you started working with Engineering Scholars as Engaged Scholars?
CLAIRE: I would say the students have been the biggest highlight. I love my (ES)² students and I think that they bring really unique perspectives to a lot of these issues. They’re really, really engaged and it just gives me hope for the future because these students are going to go out and be leaders in the industry or leaders in academia and you know just making a positive impact on the world.
LAURA: We’ve talked about how the program has to do with social justice. What does social justice mean to you in terms of our Brickley engineers?
CLAIRE: When I think of justice I like to think of this graphic, some of the listeners might have seen it already. But basically there’s two kids, they’re behind a wooden fence and they’re trying to watch a baseball game. In the first frame it talks about equality. So they’re saying if we get the same support to these two kids, they should be able to see the baseball game. But one kid is a lot taller. One kid is a lot shorter. So you haven’t addressed the inequity there. So again you give them support. So you gave them like a little wood block to stand on. The taller kid can see over the fence, the shorter kid can’t. Then in the next frame they talk about equity. So it’s saying OK to address that and inequalities here then equities here we’re going to give the shorter kid more of a pedestal or more support. Now they both can see the game and then the last frame is justice. So it’s saying OK there’s this systemic barrier here. There’s this wooden fence. Let’s address that. Let’s get rid of that wooden fence so that both kids can see the baseball game without needing any support. And I think that’s what our Berkeley engineers really have to think about is breaking down those systemic barriers that have oppressed communities. And I know that there are a lot of Berkeley engineers that are interested in doing that. So we have to recognize our privilege being at one of the top public institutions in the world and we have a responsibility to serve communities in the U.S. and abroad. That’s really what we strive to do in this program and what we want Berkeley engineers to be thinking about.
LAURA: I’ve seen the drawing that you’re talking about but I’ve only seen the first two panels.
CLAIRE: Yeah. So there is a third panel. Yeah.
LAURA: I’ll have to look it up and link to it on our website so that other folks can see the visual that you’re talking about. Thank you so much for giving your time and coming and talking to us about Engineering Scholars. Is there anything new that you wanted to add, that you don’t think we touched on yet?
CLAIRE: I don’t think so but I’m just really excited to see the applicants for this year. (ES)² is one of my favorite programs as well and it’s really near and dear to my heart. Thank you so much for having me on today.
LAURA: You know what I’ve forgotten that the class that they take the 157AC actually has a website so you can see what research projects that the students have done. That’s 157ac.berkeley.edu. So you can check out different projects that students have worked on being part of Engineering Scholars and that class the Engineering, the Environment, and society.
LAURA: And just once again, the applications are available online at engineering.berkeley.edu/es2 until June 31st. And thank you again I’m so excited to have you here to talk about this program. Like I said it’s one of my favorite things that I’ve gotten to work on since I’ve been at Berkeley.
CLAIRE: Thank you so much, Laura
LAURA: And thank you everyone for listening to the (Not So) Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineering, bye.